It was our great pleasure and honor to have with us Don Baylor, famous Major League Baseball coach, former player and manager with us on The Cure Panel Talk Show on June 20. We were honored to also have Dr. James Berenson, Founder Director of the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research (IMBCR) located in West Hollywood, California. Don and Dr. Berenson discussed “Impact of Stress and Managing Stress While Living with Myeloma”. Matt Goldman, myeloma survivor/blogger co-hosted the show. Pat Killingsworth, noted myeloma author/blogger/survivor was with us on the panel.
Priya Menon was our host for the show.
I’m providing here a brief summary of all questions and their answers given by the panelists during the talk.
Q: How do you manage the stress of travel, pressure of job, etc. in relation to your cancer?
Don: He answered that stress has forever been a part of his life being a sports person but the stress of managing/living with myeloma is different. Travel had become a problem earlier due to anemia before he was diagnosed with myeloma. In order to stay on top of myeloma, he’s adjusted his routine to incorporate ongoing treatment and lab tests while continuing with his job. He said that looking ahead, he would stay active and wants to stay around his two grand-daughters.
Q: On the previous panel, you indicated that stress wasn’t necessarily a negative impact on your health. Discuss.
Pat: Pat said that once you know stress is bad for your cancer, you get stressed trying not to get stressed! He said that instead of worrying not to get stressed, it helps to remain active, get up early in the morning and thus try to keep fatigue and stress away. There are great benefits of being active and engaged all the time during cancer.
Q: As a myeloma specialist who treats patients every day, what are your thoughts on managing stress and myeloma?
Dr. Berenson: Dr. Berenson said it was unfortunate not to have really good studies on effect of stress on myeloma and other cancers. He is a big believer that these things contribute to poor outcomes. He went to to say that many cancer drugs like Velcade/Kyropolis/Dex have profound effects on mood and mental functions, and we do not have any studies whether this stress makes the disease get worse or not.
Q: When you were diagnosed and early in your treatment, did you ever think that you wouldn’t be able to return to baseball?
Don: Don emphatically replied that quitting baseball never crossed his mind. He had Mel Stottlemyre, myeloma survivor and ex MLB player and pitching coach of New York Yankies when Don was diagnosed with myeloma to talk to and Don had positive feedback from him. One advice he got from Mel was to just deal with myeloma and see what happens.
Q: What was your view on stress before your diagnosis? What life changes did you make to accommodate your cancer?
Pat: Pat said he becomes stressed more easily now and so what he does is try to stay organised, simplify things, keep a clean workplace, and follow tips that seem to be common sense. He said that it is inspirational to know that a baseball super star has gone through the same Dex cycle that other myeloma patients go through.
Q: What do you recommend to your patients who are used to high stress careers or challenging activities?
Dr. Berenson: Dr. Berenson tells his patients to maintain their life, not to get rolled up in the fact that the disease takes over your life. He firmly believes that it’s about taking care of the person and not the disease. His job is to keep people functioning and on top of disease, maintaining their quality of life. He just tries to push people to remain active.
Q: Looking forward, do you see any limitation in your career choices because of the myeloma?
Don: He said he does want to avoid a management career in baseball again and having handled stress of the game before he doesn’t have any problem. With many others with myeloma and other cancers still out there, his stress is no different than that of others. He emphasized that he has been involved with baseball for most of his life and that’s what he would like to do in future as well.
Q: Do you place limitations on yourself because of what it might mean with your myeloma?
Pat: Pat said he might have had myeloma 3-5 years before he was diagnosed as he had extensive bone damage which had caused pain and difficulty by the time he was diagnosed. He now feels better having had a hip replacement therapy 7 weeks before. He said that having less pain and being able to move around in a better way, he felt going for hip replacement was a great decision and it was made looking forward. He’s happy with his decision and included it in one of the best things he’s ever done.
Q: Lastly, is there anything you’d like to share on this subject? To help patients look forward to living a complete life, what do you tell them?
Dr. Berenson: The over-riding message according to Dr. Berenson is that myeloma patients now live a very long life and it’s like a marathon now as compared to a sprint race a couple of decades back. He believes each myeloma patients need to run and finish that race.
Overall, it was a stress free, rather stress buster discussion on avoiding stress during myeloma. The main points that emerged for a general stress free life were staying organized, busy, patient and calm. These I believe are great things for all of us to do, whether we’ve myeloma or not. Finally to myeloma patients, I wish you all a stress free life.
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